See more synonyms for sheer on
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to sheer.
  2. Shipbuilding. to give sheer to (a hull).
  1. a deviation or divergence, as of a ship from its course; swerve.
  2. Shipbuilding. the fore-and-aft upward curve of the hull of a vessel at the main deck or bulwarks.
  3. Nautical. the position in which a ship at anchor is placed to keep it clear of the anchor.

Origin of sheer

1620–30; special use of sheer1; compare sense development of clear Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for sheering

Historical Examples of sheering

  • The fire had been hid by sheering towards the shore, and the latter was nearer, perhaps, than was desirable.

    The Deerslayer

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Our helm was put to starboard, and by sheering a little to the other side, we escaped the dreaded blow.

    Old Jack

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • While the surgeon was preparing to go, and they were thus thrown off their guard, the stranger was seen to be sheering alongside.

    The Rival Crusoes

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • The skiff, designed as Sheering had said for short hops, could not accommodate the extra weight and bulk of an airlock.

    The Legion of Lazarus

    Edmond Hamilton

  • The axe descended, sheering his haunches across, and he stretched out, working his great jaws convulsively.

    The Backwoodsmen

    Charles G. D. Roberts

British Dictionary definitions for sheering


  1. perpendicular; very steepa sheer cliff
  2. (of textiles) so fine as to be transparent
  3. (prenominal) absolute; unmitigatedsheer folly
  4. obsolete bright or shining
  1. steeply or perpendicularly
  2. completely or absolutely
  1. any transparent fabric used for making garments
Derived Formssheerly, adverbsheerness, noun

Word Origin for sheer

Old English scīr; related to Old Norse skīrr bright, Gothic skeirs clear, Middle High German schīr


verb (foll by off or away ( from ))
  1. to deviate or cause to deviate from a course
  2. (intr) to avoid an unpleasant person, thing, topic, etc
  1. the upward sweep of the deck or bulwarks of a vessel
  2. nautical the position of a vessel relative to its mooring

Word Origin for sheer

C17: perhaps variant of shear
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sheering



c.1200, "exempt, free from guilt" (e.g. Sheer Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week); later schiere "thin, sparse" (c.1400), from Old English scir "bright, clear, gleaming; translucent; pure, unmixed," and influenced by Old Norse cognate scær "bright, clean, pure," both from Proto-Germanic *skeran- (cf. Old Saxon skiri, Old Frisian skire, German schier, Gothic skeirs "clean, pure"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)).

Sense of "absolute, utter" (sheer nonsense) developed 1580s, probably from the notion of "unmixed;" that of "very steep" (a sheer cliff) is first recorded 1800, probably from notion of "continued without halting." Meaning "diaphanous" is from 1560s. As an adverb from c.1600.



1620s, "deviate from course" (of a ship), of obscure origin, perhaps from Dutch scheren "to move aside, withdraw, depart," originally "to separate" (see shear (v.)). Related: Sheered; shearing. As a noun from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper